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November 2021
Klaers: 2021 on Track to be ‘Best Year We’ve Ever Had’
Bill Klaers, president and CEO of the museum, praised volunteers at a volunteer appreciation dinner at WestPac on October 9, and said 2021 is on track to be "the best year we've ever had."

Covid has made it "a tough year," he told some 150 volunteers.

"We did a Summit Economics Study a couple of years before we opened up the Kaija Raven Shook Aeronautical Pavilion, in late 2019, trying to show what we could do if we opened this hangar and put it together, and I will tell you that the numbers are higher than they would have been if we had both halves of the Pavilion done, and an additional amount of airplanes." That, he said, "says a lot about this group of people."

Mark Earle, who, among other things, handled the museum's response to Covid, said the virus made closure a real possibility. "The reason we were able to [stay open] is because of the work that you [volunteers] put in, and your patience." He also said that 2021 is "going to be the most successful year that we’ve had."
Innovation Marked Use of PBY in South Pacific
The Consolidated PBY Catalina is one of those weapon systems that was used in roles that were never envisioned for it when it was first designed, said museum curator and historian Col. Gene Pfeffer (USAF-ret.). Pfeffer described the PBY and the missions it flew in World War II during a September 25 event that included a flight of the museum's Catalina, built by Canadian Vickers in Montreal as a Canso in 1944. (Photo by Larry McManus).

The PBY was designed and developed by Consolidated in response to a U.S. Navy requirement of the 1930s. The service wanted a long-range, multi-purpose, monoplane flying boat that would extend the eyes of the fleet, Pfeffer told an audience of several hundred in the museum's WestPac hangar.

The Navy had a long history of using seaplanes for this mission, Pfeffer said. "This was before radar. If you wanted to see what was out there, you had to go see." The other job of the new plane would be to direct naval gunfire. It would be the latest in a line of seaplanes whose mission was to tell battleships whether they were firing long, short, or on target.

Pfeffer said PBYs served in every major theater of World War II – against German submarines in the Atlantic, in the Aleutian Islands, the Mediterranean, South Asia, and the many campaigns of the Pacific.

But, he said, the Catalina’s most notable service was in the South Pacific, where necessity was the mother of invention.

As the U.S. and Allies began to strike back against Japanese advances in the South Pacific, it became apparent that the big, slow-flying, long-range PBY could contribute in new ways. In fact, Pfeffer said, it became a unique naval capability.
Its offensive potential revealed itself at the Battle of Midway. On June 3-4, 1942, as the fight between U.S. and Japanese naval forces raged, U.S. Army Air Forces B-17 bombers, flying from Midway, attacked Japanese ships. The strike wasn't successful but, in the heat of combat, seemed to be. It gave Rear Admiral Patrick N.L. Bellinger an idea. Bellinger, commander of Patrol Wing Two, thought, What if we hung torpedoes on four of my Midway-based PBYs, newly equipped with radar, and went hunting for Japanese ships at night? These "Black Cat" PBYs of VP-52 were based at Port Moresby, New Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo)

"As [historian] Gordon Prange remarked forty years later, this was an idea 'straight out of a comic strip,'" wrote another historian, Craig L. Symonds. "But," Symonds said, "it illustrated the American willingness and ability to improvise."

More importantly, he said, "it worked." The PBYs, led by Lt. William L. Richards, found Japanese ships under a full moon. Richards "told his crew, 'Drop the damn thing and let's get the hell out of here,'" Symonds said. "They did, and even scored a hit" on a tanker, although it didn't sink. The torpedo apparently failed to detonate, not uncommon early in the war. The PBY drew heavy fire but was not seriously hit. The crew had a hard time staying awake on the long ride back to Midway.
The tactic was used with great success in the six-month-long slugfest with Japan for Guadalcanal, which began with the U.S. Marines' invasion of the island on August 7, 1942. "The Japanese were desperate to reinforce," Pfeffer said. "The Allies were desperate to stop them." Because of the success of daylight strikes by Allied planes against the Japanese in the campaign, the Japanese were forced to do night reinforcements by sea.

PBYs helped defeat the reinforcement effort. They were painted flat black and fitted with ship-detecting radar and radar altimeters. Initially operating from tender ships and later from Guadalcanal itself, these "Black Cats" targeted Japanese ships in "the Slot" of the Solomon Islands chain. They "ravaged Japanese shipping and landing attempts, attacking from very low level," Pfeffer said. They carried 500- or 1,000-pound general purpose bombs with short-delay fuzes.

The tactic, Pfeffer said, was to "Come in with the moon behind you, start a shallow dive-bombing attack from 1,000 feet, throttle back the engines for quiet, drop at a few hundred feet, throw out very bright flares to create confusion, throttle up and evade at mast height."

One book describes a night Black Cat mission near the Solomons. On October 27, 1942, it says, Lt. Melvin K. Atwell and crew of squadron VP-91 "spotted a large vessel 30 miles away." Atwell's PBY "was bracketed by two bursts of anti-aircraft fire" from the ship when he was two miles away. "He immediately put the aircraft in a dive, releasing his four 500-pound bombs over the ship at approximately 600 feet.... The concussion...damaged the aircraft, which barely pulled out of the dive 20 feet above the surface of the sea."

As the plane "headed for home base a large orange flash was seen in the distance in the vicinity of the target, followed by large explosion 10 minutes later. For his courageous single-handed attack...Lieutenant Atwell was awarded the Navy Cross."

After the Allied victory at Guadalcanal, Pfeffer said, "the war moved up the Solomons chain and so did the Black Cats."

Black Cat squadrons also fought in the battle for New Guinea and helped neutralize the Japanese bastion at Rabaul. They eventually operated in the Philippines and in the South China sea.

By the end of the war there were 14 Black Cat squadrons, Pfeffer said. They "compiled an impressive record of enemy sinkings with few losses." One squadron, VPB-33, "in just a month sank 43 ships and damaged 20 more."

Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area, said of the Black Cats, "No command in war has excelled the brilliance of their operations."
These operations included (U.S. Navy photo) another mission in which the PBY excelled -- rescuing downed Allied airmen. The radio call sign for PBYs here was "Dumbo," for Disney's flying elephant character with the big ears. Dumbo missions were flown by Black Cat and other PBY squadrons.

One PBY, flown by Lt. Cdr. Robert Adrian Marks, rescued 56 crewmen of the USS Indianapolis after it was sunk by Japanese torpedoes. The ship went down in 12 minutes on July 30, 1945, after delivering components of the first atomic bomb to the B-29 base on Tinian Island on July 26, 1945.

Nine hundred men went into the water, Pfeffer said. Four days later, on August 3, 1945, "survivors were sighted by a patrol aircraft," he said. "Dumbos and ships were alerted." Marks "landed his PBY in high seas and took on survivors in the midst of shark attacks," Pfeffer said. "A rescue ship was many hours away. The crew pulled 56 men aboard. Many were tied to the top of the wing, the PBY acting as a life raft. After later transferring men to a ship the PBY was scuttled" because the many small boats coming alongside to take the survivors banged into the plane's hull, causing leaks. Three-hundred and fifteen of the 900 men who went into the water survived.

Three days after the rescue, on August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Lt. Nathan Gordon of squadron VPB-34 became the only PBY pilot to win the Medal of Honor. On Feb. 15, 1944, he and his crew were flying a Dumbo mission supporting bombers attacking the Japanese on the island of New Ireland. "Several aircraft went down," Pfeffer said. "In sixteen-foot seas, Gordon's crew rescued nine B-25 crewmen while under intense shore fire. Heading home, Gordon was alerted to another downed B-25 crew."

He turned around and "the PBY spotted six airmen just offshore and drifting in toward the enemy," Pfeffer said. "Gordon flew low over the island, passing directly over enemy anti-aircraft positions. He settled the PBY near the downed crew in rough seas. Six men were pulled aboard. Gordon was awarded the Medal of Honor and each of his crewmen received the Silver Star for their actions that day." Gordon served as the lieutenant governor of Arkansas from 1947 to 1967.

John Love -- who was governor of Colorado from 1962 to 1973 and then served as director of the Office of Energy Policy under President Richard Nixon -- flew PBYs with Black Cat squadron VP-54. "During his time in the Pacific," Pfeffer said, "Love and his crews were credited with rescuing 17 U.S. and Allied airmen." Love was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Air Medals.
Sources for this article include:

Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons, Volume 2, Chapter 4: Patrol Bombing Squadron (VPB) Histories (VPB-61 to VPB-103), Washington, D.C.: Naval   Historical Center, Department of the Navy. pp. 494–6.

Symonds, Craig L., The Battle of Midway, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 215-216.
Rich Tuttle

Rich Tuttle
‘That’s an Order!’
An Air Force Career Spanned World War II,
Korea, and the Cold War
Lt. Col. Robert H. Taylor (USAF-ret.), now 97, has many stories to tell about his time as a flight instructor in World War II, his experiences as a Bronze Star-winning F-51 fighter pilot in Korea, and the day he ejected from a T-33 trainer.

Bob Taylor won his wings with Class 43-I at Randolph Field, Tex., in 1943. He was a flight instructor until the end of the war in 1945, checked out in the P-40 and P-47, joined the New Jersey Air National Guard, flew 85 combat missions in Korea, and was on flight status with the Air Force in the T-33 and T-39 Sabreliner until retirement from the service in 1968.

Bob sat in the front row at the museum's August 25 presentation on wartime pilot training. (See Taylor family photo below). He was accompanied by his son Robert B. Taylor of Bel Aire, Kansas, who also was an Air Force pilot. The father related some of his own flight training experiences during a September 7 interview with the newsletter in his favorite booth at The Airplane Restaurant in Colorado Springs, not far from the museum.

Bob's first assignment was to Independence Army Airfield, Kans., where he was a Basic training instructor. There were three phases of U.S. Army Air Forces flight training in World War II: Primary, where students are introduced to flying; Basic, where they learn to be military pilots, and Advanced, where students are divided into future fighter and bomber pilots.
During Bob’s first week at Independence, a BT-9 trainer crashed approaching to land. "I think the cadet in the front seat was giving [the instructor] a hard time, and I think he just stalled out on base leg, and as a result he crashed straight in."

In a night-training session at Independence, a number of planes collided as they approached to land. In another night case, a tractor was left on the runway, causing accidents. "We lost a lot of guys" in training accidents, Bob said.

Some pilots believed an instructor was never in danger but Bob said, "You should have been in the back seat with me. There were a couple of my students" who had to be closely watched.

Then one day, "I got a call from my squadron commander. He said we have your orders to transfer to Randolph Field with the Central Instructor School. The school was formed in 1943 to standardize training methods and content. His job would be “to train guys who were coming back from combat, teaching them how to be an instructor. I only had 150-200 hours. But I was a determined kid and I did the best I could."

"I only had to put one guy up for washout," Bob said. "He just would not listen to me. Everybody else would, even though I was younger than they were. I would say, 'Hey, here's the way you're supposed to do it.' In this one case, he was a commercial pilot and you couldn't tell him anything, which is one reason we were trying to weed those guys out."

When Bob got his orders to the Central Instructor School, he was surprised. "I was 18," he said. "I couldn't believe it so I went to the colonel and said, 'You've got something wrong. My name is on the wrong list to go to the wrong place.'"
But the colonel replied, "'Out! We don't favor anybody!'" And, Bob said, "To this day I don't know how that happened."

It happened to a number of talented young pilots, maybe three or four out of a class of 200. Reactions differed. Joseph A. Kennedy of North Attleboro, Mass., graduated with Class 44-C and was pumped up for combat. "I'm ready for it," he said as he relived the experience in a 2016 interview at the museum. But "they held me back as an instructor. And I was heart-broken.... I didn't understand why that was happening to me. I was a born fighter pilot, and I can tell you that right now!"

Bob wanted to move on from instructing. "Finally," he said, "I made enough annoyance to the colonel. So the next time an assignment came to fly P-47 Jugs, I got it." That was in late 1944. He didn't see combat in World War II.
Bob joined the New Jersey Air National Guard after the war and began flying F-51 Mustangs. In 1951, with the Korean war underway, he was deployed to Korea with the 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron of the 18th Fighter Bomber Group. Based at Hoengsong Airfield, or K-46, the Mustangs flew mostly ground-support missions. Bob had recently made captain and was qualified as a regular Air Force pilot.

"Because I had been flying with the Air National Guard, we did a lot of air-to-ground gunnery and napalm bombing [and] I had trained and taught Guard guys how to properly" attack a target. But in Korea, "I was very unpopular" when it came to teaching these skills. "None of the guys in the squadron liked me" because "I was telling them, 'You guys don't know anything.'"

But when pilots, under orders from the squadron commander, watched exactly where their bombs were hitting, it was "pretty sad," Bob said. Pilots had been using the nose of the plane to line up on a ground target. The commander "shut down the combat mission" and "I taught these guys" how to use the Mustang's K-14 dog-fighting gunsight to bomb ground targets. "Those guys listened to me" and became much better.

In one big raid on Pyongyang, the mission was to target a specific building -- and to avoid hitting a nearby building which housed American prisoners of war. The attack was successful. Bob said the building "was beat up pretty bad by the time I got there."

After marking the hits of other Mustangs, Bob and his wingman dove on the target. "I did, on the clock, 458 knots." In such a dive, he said, "you want to do most of your adjusting on the trim tabs because if you're doing it any other's just not smooth, and then the gunsight is going to cheat on you."

The Group’s newfound marksmanship and reduced combat losses were highly significant – and noticed. Bob recalled the squadron commander saying, “Taylor, come in here." And he handed me this beautiful honor, the Bronze Star.

The citation accompanying the medal says:

First Lieutenant ROBERT H. TAYLOR distinguished himself by meritorious achievement as Group Gunnery Officer, 18th Fighter Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force, during the period 8 July 1953 to 8 October 1953. In order to bring the 18th Fighter Bomber Group up to the desired level of combat proficiency in Fighter Bomber Tactics, Lieutenant TAYLOR volunteered for the additional duty of Group Gunnery Officer. Though hampered by the fact that the Group was equipped with outdated aircraft and sighting equipment, Lieutenant TAYLOR, through intensive research, analysis and diligent study, devised and standardized methods to greatly improve the accuracy of the Group’s striking power; at the same time minimizing exposure to ground fire. The success of Lieutenant TAYLOR’s program was revealed in the great increase in the Group’s combat effectiveness as well as the large decrease in combat losses. Through his initiative and untiring efforts, Lieutenant TAYLOR has brought great credit upon himself, the Far East Air Forces, and the United States Air Force.

In 1959, Bob and another officer took off in a T-33 trainer from Hurlburt Field in Florida, headed for Ent Air Force Base in Colorado. Bob at the time was in Air Defense Command, working on the Bomarc, a ramjet-powered surface-to-air missile. As the T-33 climbed out during a blinding rain storm, its J33 engine quit. Three engine-starts were tried and all failed.
Bob, in the back seat, had over 5,000 hours of single-engine time, more than the man in the front seat, so he took command even though the other man out-ranked him.

"Sir, we are bailing out at 10,000 feet. That's an order!" Bob said.

Both ejections were successful. Bob broke out of the clouds at about 200 feet and wound up in a tree but climbed down safely. The other man landed near a farm house and spent the night there. Bob was rescued the next morning after spending a cold, wet night in a tent he made from his parachute.

Years later, Bob was flying T-39 Sabreliners. He recalled one flight, carrying VIPs to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington. He parked next to Air Force One.

"I had just shut down the engines and this man came up front and said, 'Man, that was a super-smooth flight!' And I said, 'Well, thank you very much.' I didn't ignore him, but I had to shut down and the crew chief later said, 'Do you know who that was?' I said, ‘No, I don't.' ‘It was Bob Hoover,’" the famous fighter pilot, test pilot, flight instructor, and extraordinary airshow pilot.

"I've often thought if I had known that, I would have done a slow roll on final," Bob said.
Rich Tuttle

Rich Tuttle
Lonnie Roberts Chosen as Volunteer of the Third Quarter
Lonnie Roberts has been selected by the Museum's Awards Committee as Volunteer of the Third Quarter of 2021.

Lonnie is responsible for heading up the wood-working area for the Restoration and Construction Team. He works behind the scenes to construct display cases and elements for Museum artifact displays.
Lonnie has worked hard to streamline the construction process and reduce costs by 30 to 50 percent by decreasing material quantities and by using less expensive and more readily available materials. We can thank Lonnie for the many great displays in the museum!

An awards ceremony and pizza lunch were held in Lonnie's honor on October 14. Please join us in congratulating Lonnie! In the photo (right) Lonnie Roberts (center) is congratulated by Bill Klaers (right) and Harry Johnson.